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Family Law... Why You Might Not Want To Go To Court

We routinely discuss, in our first meetings with clients, all the reasons why exploring other methods of dispute resolution may lead to a more satisfactory outcome. In most cases, court really is a last resort.

Angela Walker – February 2019

Family law clients routinely come to our offices with the initial belief that they want a court outcome. For many, the perception is that a court process will deliver a fair, just and effective result.

We routinely discuss, in our first meetings with clients, all the reasons why exploring other methods of dispute resolution may lead to a more satisfactory outcome. In most cases, court really is a last resort.

Here are ten reasons to avoid a family court process:

  1. A court process is typically much more expensive then an alternative form of dispute resolution. A great deal of preparation time must be spent by lawyers to effectively present a case in court.
  1. It can take a long time to get a final court date. Court can be further delayed or adjourned for unexpected reasons.
  1. You may end up with an outcome that is not workable for either party, particularly if you are asking the Court to decide what parenting schedule should be in place.
  1. Court is a public process. The family courthouse is open to members of the public who can come and watch a trial or hearing.
  1. Evidence in court is constrained by strict rules. You will not necessarily be able to tell the Judge everything you think is relevant. For instance, you cannot tender hearsay – that is statements made by a third party or a child, except in certain restricted circumstances.
  1. There is a large emotional cost associated with going to court. Going to court is stressful! You will be cross-examined on your evidence.
  1. Court processes can further fracture relationships with your ex-spouse. This can be particularly problematic if you have children together that will require ongoing communication and collaboration.
  1. It can take a long time to receive a decision. If a Judge does not make a ruling immediately after a trial has concluded he or she may prepare a written decision. This can take up to six months to receive.
  1. If you are unsuccessful, you may be ordered to pay a portion of the legal costs of the other party.
  1. If one party is unhappy with the outcome and a legal error has been made, an appeal could follow. While successful appeals in family law are difficult to establish, this can serve to further prolong the uncertainty in your life.
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